Sunday, December 19, 2010

Riding on a New Continent

Daryll writes:

It has been a week since our last update and we are now safely in Colombia, South America.  After the failed attempts on reaching our boat, we had decided to fly the bikes and ourselves from Panama City to Bogota, Colombia.  Flying is the most expensive option of getting the bikes across the Darien Gap.  We always had budgeted to fly and if we managed to get a sail boat, the saving was going to be a bonus for our budget; however it is always good to have a Plan B.

As we had only decided to fly both the bikes and ourselves at the last minute, we hadn’t made any arrangements for the bikes or booked flights for ourselves.  The four of us (Naomi, Alberto included) were literally going to wing it.  I had read that in order to have the bikes air shipped, one would have to drain the gas and disconnect the battery.  So on the day before, I decided to drain some gas out of both bikes and thought that I had left a sufficient amount to get us to the air cargo terminal, close to the airport.  Well you know were this is going.  On the way to the airport, Angela’s bike runs out of gas and she pulls over into a bus stop area.  Naomi had given her gas away that she had in the jerry can that she carries, so I borrow the jerry can and go back a few km’s to the gas station that we just past and fill up $1.00 worth of gas.  The attendant looked strangely at me for filling up a $1.00 and wished I had filled up $2.00 worth.  So back I go and empty the gas into Ang’s bike and leave a bit in the jerry can as I had a nagging feeling that I was going to need it soon.  We only went a few km’s further when my bike stops.  Yup, that 35L gas tank of mine was now out.  So I empty the few milliliters from the jerry can into my tank and prey that we make it to the Girag offices.  Lesson to oneself – drain gas at the shipping place instead of prior.  Once there, the waiting game began.  We had to wait for the lady that takes care of shipping bikes to arrive.

Patiently waiting
Once she arrived, we got confirmation that the bikes will be able to be shipped the next day (Tuesday) and will arrive later that afternoon.  That was a relief.  I didn’t bother disconnecting the battery, but we did take some time shrink wrapping everything that was strapped to the bikes, removing the mirrors and windscreen, filled out some paperwork and left the bikes in their hands.  While we were taking care of all of this, another biker arrived.  André was from Quebec and riding a 1150GS, and had pre-booked his bike for Tuesday already.  He left home 6 weeks ago and once in Bogota, he was going to store his bike for a month, fly back home later in the week for xmas and return mid-January to continue his ride south.  He also had a flight booked for Tuesday, however was going to join us to the airport to see if he could get on an early flight with us.  On the way out, we had to stop at the Customs booth to have the bikes stamped out the country and once that formality was done, we tried to get a cab to the airport, about a km away.  Remember there are five of us now and we didn’t want to take 2 separate cabs, so tried to get a cab driver to take 5 passengers and it was not happening.  In the mean time, André managed to stop a cargo van and they offered to take us, so we pile into the back.
Angela shrink wrapping her bike
Once at the airport, we tried at the different airline service desks and weren’t able to get confirmation for a flight out for the Monday.  It was about 2pm by now and there were flights leaving around 3pm, 7pm and 8pm and the best we could get would be stand-by tickets for those flights.  We were all determined to get on a flight that same day/night so Alberto and I tried via the internet to see if we could book on Expedia as it was showing availability.  We were using free Wi-Fi, and it was painstakingly slow, while our new friend André was going to use his French charm on the lady at the Copa Airlines counter to convince her to get us on one of those flights.  It seemed like we were on the Amazing Race all frantically trying to book flights at the last minute.  In the end, the French charisma paid off and we were on two separate flights (three on the 7:20pm flight and Ang and I on the 8:20pm flight).  Now we have a few hours to kill and what better way to relieve the stress’s of the day by sampling different liquors'.

Killing time with alcohol
Alberto had a friend in Bogota who had offered them an empty apartment for their stay in Bogota and he generously extended that offer to all of us as well.  It was a life-saver as both our flights were delayed and Ang and I got into Bogota close to 11pm that night; historically not a city where you want to be trying to find a hotel that late at night.  Beatriz and her bother Felipe (Alberto’s friends) met us at the airport and took us to their aunt’s empty apartment.  Even though we slept on the floor that first night as all our camping gear was still on the bikes, it was a god-sent.  Our bikes were to arrive mid-morning the next day so we took a cab to the Girag offices and arrived by 11:30am the following day, only to learn that our bikes hadn’t arrived and would arrive about 3pm that afternoon.  We really wanted to get our bikes so none of us wanted to leave and come back, so we just hung around waiting for the next few hours.

Once we had confirmation that the bikes had landed, we had to have them cleared through customs and finally we were able to get them ready to leave which was an ordeal in itself.  Cargo warehouses are set-up for cargo going from a loading dock directly onto the back of a truck and not for motorcycles.  The staff set-up a make shift ramp for us to ride down to get onto street level.  Clip courtesy of André - I ride both our bikes down the ramp.

Exiting Air Cargo Terminal from Daryll Naidu on Vimeo.

Our bikes were totally out of gas, so André headed off in the dark to find us a gas station and bring us a gallon of gas in the jerry can.  He had gone a long time but finally returned with some gas for us to get going again.  We were all really worried as it was now dark.  While waiting at the terminal, another gentleman was also waiting for his goods and offered to lead us back to our apartment as Bogota traffic is a nightmare, let alone trying to navigate in the dark. 

We decided to stay for a few more days in Bogota to recover from the last week and managed to visit the Plaza and Palace area.  Xmas is in full swing and there is an ice-rink set up in the Plaza.  Colombia has a reputation, however whilst walking around, we never felt threatened or in fear of our safety.  The downtown core was bustling and the comfort of police officers and army officers on every corner put us at ease.  As we wondered around the Palace, we came across a bomb explosive guy with his golden retriever and we couldn’t help ourselves but stop and take photos of the two of them.  Beatriz and her family were extremely generous and hospitable and her cousin Alejandro took me to a bike shop where I had the brake pads on Ang’s bike replaced one of our free days.  Following him through traffic was insane as he weaved his Honda Veradero through downtown Bogota traffic.  Beatriz, her brother Felipe and her sister Virginia also took us to an upscale mall where we walked through one of the famous restaurants Andres de Res.  It was on 4 floors with each floor decorated in a different theme and all the fittings were hand-made at their own workshop.  We ended up having dinner at a market place and it was the most amazing meal I’ve had.  Colombian food is amazing and it is about the best so we’ve had so far.

A well trained Golden
New photos added to the Panama and Colombia photo albums.

P.S.  If anyone reading this has a Cardo Scala Q2 bike-to-bike communicator or can help us, we need some help.  One of our units isn’t taking a charge and therefore cannot be used.  Communication with each other is so vital for us and we cannot do without it.
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  1. greg writes.... Glad to hear that your adventure is continuing! Hope things go well in S America! enjoy and ride safe. Greg and Jill

  2. We will be in Cali for another day to have a few things taken care on the bikes before continuing south.

  3. Hi guys,
    Sorry we have taken so long to get in touch ... just too much to see and do here to keep us busy!!!
    So you made it to the bottom, good on you, hope the Ruta 40 was better for you than it was for us.
    We are in Nazca at the moment. Did the flight over the lines yesterday, great!! We did the flight with a guy you have previously met, Andre from Montreal, saw your sticker on his bike!
    Anyway guys
    Have fun and ride safe.
    Kev & Lorraine (met you in Moquegue)

  4. Hi Guys,
    Yup, made it down and now we can't seem to leave Ushuaia. The weather has been really good here, so we just hanging around. Angela did leave a sticker on your bike as we left, hope you got it. I have been using all your camping waypoints from your site thus far, so thank you for all the info.
    Ride safe